Circled big in my planner you can read "Chickens Today!" in large letters on May 9th. Since then, our schedules and upcoming vacations have revolved around their needs. We change the water four times a day and feed them just as often. Each morning I count them, twelve chicks curled in wood shavings and dirt, underneath the heat lamp. All accounted for, we haven't lost one yet.
My dad says this is a miracle. He says you always lose one or two. I believe in listening. I believe in fresh air and words of encouragement. I believe in not waking them up and letting them sleep, so I might walk back out in the morning an hour later so they aren't stressed. I believe in letting them be free, to not constrain them to a brooder, so we fenced in half a barn stall for them and they get a chance to run free. And at night, Nolan and I hold hands and walk down to the barn, cutting through the sodden grass from when the spring house overflows and the red, red glow of the heat lamp acts as a makeshift lighthouse when the rest of the world is pitch black.
It's hard to not get attached, to let my mind wander to their future and their happiness. We do the same thing with our dogs, we anthropomorphize their thoughts to fit our actions. We say they're happy so we don't feel so guilty, but how do we know? For the chickens, we keep them warm and safe. For the dogs, we hold them tight on the porch swing and think of them while we're out, picking up hamburgers or tennis balls along the way.
This is a life I couldn't have in California, the expansive life of opportunity, of homestead and hearth. Of empathy. Of nurturing. Of appreciating the fog over the hill and barn and the deer whose footprints break the soil after it rains. Every detail is here in our own world and I try to remember we're a part of it all now.
Farm Animal Crackers!
I thought of this idea a few weeks ago after agreeing to help one of Nolan's coworkers with a 4-H bake sale, so we bought these cookie cutters on Amazon and I started playing around with ideas. I loved the chicken one (of course, after seeing my little girls grow!), so thought it would be fun to just use those. I spoke with Molly when she was in Philly about this idea and she got me on a good path using powdered milk. And it worked so much better! Yas, Molly! I also referenced Adrianna's recipe as well.
This recipe can be adapted to smaller shapes, but just be aware of baking time!
- 1 3/4 cup AP flour
- 1/4 cup powdered milk
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
- 3 TB unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 egg whites
- 1/4 cup whole milk, room temperature
- Preheat oven to 350*F and prepare 2 baking sheets with parchment or a Silpat
- Sift together flour, powdered milk, salt, and baking soda in a large mixing bowl
- In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar
- Scrape sides with a rubber spatula, add vanilla and egg whites and mix--it may look a bit lumpy, but that is okay
- Create a well in your dry ingredients and add your sugar mixture, stir to combine
- Finally, add milk to moisten dough
- Roll out onto a floured work surface and knead for a few seconds until dough comes together
- Roll out cookies to about a 1/4 inch thick and cut out your shapes. Place on baking sheets
- Once you have cut out your shapes, place in freezer for 10 minutes to firm up (this will help with the shape being consistent when baking)
- Remove from oven, poke a couple times with a tooth pick
- Bake for 12-14 minutes or until edges are tanned and top is puffed slightly
- Allow to cool before coating in white chocolate (directions below)
To Decorate: Melt or temper 20 ounces of white chocolate. When cookies are cooled, dip one in and coat both sides using two forks so as not to smudge the chocolate with your hands. Transfer to a cooling rack, decorate with some sprinkles, and allow to dry. Repeat with half of the cookies. With remaining cookies and chocolate, dye pink using a quality red food dye. Coat remaining cookies with same method.